TOTAL FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE:
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- Top 100 wide out Henderson talks UF offensive explosion
- Florida a top contender for four-star Knighton
- Uncensored Sound-Off: Players, coaches, media sound off on game
- ITG Mock Class (three uncommitted prospects included)
- Widening talent gap a cause for concern
- Behind-the-Scenes: Florida day-by-day game week breakdown
- Mullen 20 Game Report Card: More like Mullen than McElwain
- At Florida, it’s more than football, it’s family
On Saturday, the No. 10 Gators snapped their three-year streak of being blown out the week after the Georgia game by blasting Vanderbilt 56-0. This week, UF (8-2, 5-2 SEC) looks to snap its losing streak to Missouri (5-4, 2-3). While they’ve lost just two in a row, they’ve done so by a combined score of 83-33. Since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012, the Gators are 3-4 against the Tigers.
Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as Florida looks to finish off conference play with a road win.
1) The Gators made some major adjustments defensively, and they all seemed to work well. Personnel-wise, they moved Marco Wilson inside to nickelback and rotated Trey Dean and Kaiir Elam at corner. They’d experimented with Dean at nickel all season, and it became painfully obvious against Georgia that it was never going to work out. So, they moved him to the spot he feels most comfortable at and where he played well at in 2018. Vanderbilt’s receivers aren’t very good, but they seemed to do a much better job at covering the middle of the field this week. It also seemed like defensive coordinator Todd Grantham played more press coverage in obvious passing downs than he had all season. They did what they were supposed to do by limiting the Commodores to 128 total yards. The frustrating part for fans is trying to figure out why it took losing to Georgia for these long overdue changes to be made.
2) He went up against the worst defense in the conference, but Ethan White looked promising in his first career start. He filled in for injured starter Brett Heggie at right guard and displayed the physicality and “mean streak” that you like to see from a guard. He was a clear upgrade from Christopher Bleich in the running game, and he allowed just one pressure on 46 drop-backs, according to Pro Football Focus. White, who weighed nearly 400 pounds when he arrived on campus in January, will likely have moments over the final three games where he looks like a true freshman still trying to learn the playbook and figure out how defenses are trying to attack him. But, he showed enough against the Commodores to get you excited about the type of player he could be down the road.
3) This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Mohamoud Diabate has an incredible burst off of the ball. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon on his second sack of the game, and he demonstrated great awareness by swiping at the ball and forcing a fumble on his third sack. With Jeremiah Moon out for at least the remainder of the regular season, it will be interesting to see what kind of role Diabate has. Listed at just 213 pounds, he needs to put on a lot of weight before he can be an every-down defensive end, and he doesn’t cover well enough to play a traditional linebacker spot. Against Vanderbilt, he was able to get away with being a one-dimensional speed rusher. He likely won’t be able to do so against Missouri and Florida State.
1) Florida played a bunch of young players against the Commodores, including Diabate, White, quarterback Emory Jones, defensive end Khris Bogle and cornerbacks Elam, Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough. It wasn’t like they just came in when the score was lopsided in the fourth quarter, either. They all received playing time in the first half. With the SEC East title almost out of reach, will the Gators continue to use these final few games to develop younger players, or will they scale back the rotation again as the competition stiffens? They can only dress 70 players at Missouri per SEC travel restrictions, but they can play everybody against Florida State and in the bowl game. Will they focus on future development in the final three games, or will they only play the players who give them the best chance to win right now?
2) Will Missouri start Kelly Bryant or Taylor Powell at quarterback? Bryant missed the Tigers’ game against Georgia this past weekend with a hamstring injury, and Powell made his first career start. The results weren’t pretty, as the Tigers were shut out and the redshirt sophomore completed 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards with an interception. The two have completely different styles. Bryant is an experienced dual-threat option who led Clemson to the College Football Playoff in 2017. He’s not the most accurate passer, but his ability to extend plays can give defenses fits. Powell is a pocket-passer who’s not much of a threat with his legs. The Gators will have to prepare for both. Their results against backup quarterbacks have been a mixed bag this year, as they dominated Vanderbilt’s Deuce Wallace but struggled against Kentucky’s Sawyer Smith and South Carolina’s Ryan Hilinski at times.
1) The Missouri game will be a lot tougher than you might think. The Tigers rank second in the SEC in total defense and are first in passing defense by more than 30 yards at 147.7 yards-per-game. UF probably won’t be able to run the ball once again, so Kyle Trask is going to have to find a way to throw for about double what the Tigers average giving up for the offense to find success. Florida’s defense has struggled mightily away from home all season, so Missouri should be able to move the ball on them. Add in the 11 a.m. local kickoff, the cold weather and likely sparse crowd, and this game has all the makings of a four-quarter battle.
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